The box pleat is one of the easiest pleating techniques to master. We’ve used the inverted version to create a pair of simple yet stunning pillows. Use a single pleat or a double pleat; we give you all the measurements needed for either version. Or as we did, make both as the perfect decorator pair. When choosing your fabric for the inside of the pleat, look for a sharp contrast in order to make allow this detail to best stand out. We recommend a darker coordinating color. And, if making the pillow pair, it’s a nice idea to match the interior fabric to pull together the two pillows. We used a rich chocolate brown for the inner accent on ours.
If you’re having lots of fun pleating, you might want to check out our other pleating tutorials to further build your skill set.
How to Make a Box Pleat or Inverted Box Pleat
How to Make Knife Pleats
And a cousin to the pleat: How to Make Wave Tucks
Our pillows are based on using a standard 16” x 16” insert for the larger pillow with the double pleats and a standard 14” x 14” insert for the smaller pillow with the single pleat.
Sewing Tools You Need
- Sewing machine and standard presser foot
Fabric and Other Supplies
NOTE: These pillows look great as a set, so we show the supplies needed for both pillows, and have included enough yardage to allow for fussy cutting.
- ½ yard of 44"+ wide cotton fabric for the 14" square pillow
- 1 yard of 44"+ wide cotton fabric for the 16" square pillow
- ½ yard of 44"+ wide cotton fabric for the box-pleat insert for both pillows
NOTE: ½ yard is appropriate is making both pillows, if making the smaller pillow only, use ¼ yard – if making the larger pillow only, use ⅓ yard.
- One 14" x 14" pillow insert
- One 16" x 16" pillow insert
- All-purpose thread to match/compliment all the fabrics: we used a chocolate brown for the constrasting box at the top and bottom of each pleat
- See-through ruler
- Fabric pen or pencil
- Seam gauge
- Seam ripper
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
Cut fabric for the 14" x 14" pillow
- From the main fabric, as shown above in blue, cut the following:
ONE 16" x 15" rectangle, then sub-cut in half to create TWO 8" x 15" rectangles
TWO 12½" x 15" rectangles
- From the inset fabric, as shown above in brown, cut ONE 5" x 15" rectangle.
Cut fabric for the 16" x 16" pillow
- From the main fabric, as shown above in the beige, cut the following:
TWO 13½" x 17" rectangles
ONE 20" x 17" rectangle, then sub-cut in half to create TWO 10" x 17" rectangles labeled A and B. Finally, cut each of those A and B rectangles again to create A-1 (6" x 17"), A-2 (4" x 17"), B-1 (4" x 17") and B-2 (6" x 17").
NOTE: By cutting in this order, you make the best use of any fabric motif or design.
- From the inset fabric, as shown above in brown, cut THREE 5" x 17 rectangles.
At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board
14" x 14" Pillow
- Using a ½" seam allowance, with rights sides together, sew Print rectangles to either side of the Solid rectangle as shown in the diagram above.
- Mark the center point of the Solid panel. You can do this by folding the panel in half and marking with a pin or you can make a light crease with your iron. You can also draw a line with your fabric pen or pencil, but be SURE it will wipe away or disappear with exposure to the air or the heat of an iron.
- Pull the seams in towards the marked center point to form the pleat, as shown below. Press flat.
- Pin and stitch the pleat closed close to the raw edge of the fabric with a short horizontal line of stitching at both the top and bottom.
- Topstitch approximately ¼" from the center line to create a long box around the pleat. Stitch down 2¾" from the top, pivot, stitch across the opening, pivot again, and stitch back up to the top. This secures the pleat and adds a nice accent. We used contrasting thread to emphasize the accent, but you could certainly stitch in a matching thread as well. Repeat to add a matching box at the bottom of the pleat.
16" x 16" Pillow
- Using a ½" seam allowance, with rights sides together, sew alternating Print and Solid rectangles together as shown in the diagram above.
- Create three box pleats, using the same process as described above, except topstitch 3¾" to create a slightly longer box for this larger pillow. Again, you are securing the pleats at both the top and the bottom.
Making an envelope back
- Collect your cut back pieces and separate them into their appropriate pairs.
- For each pair, take one of the pillow back pieces and fold back the raw edge of the fabric ½" along the entire width of the piece (15" on the 14" pillow, and 17" on the 16" pillow). Press well.
- Fold back an additional 1½" and press again.
- Edgestitch along the inner folded edge to make a clean double turn hem.
- Repeat Steps 1-4 with the remaining back piece.
- Take both pieces and overlap the hems to yield the correct finished height (15" on the 14" square pillow, and 17" on the 16" pillow). Pin the hems together.
- Working as close to the raw side edges as possible, baste the ends of hems together to secure and create one piece. It's easier to work with one piece than two when you stitch front to back.
- Place your completed pillow back and pillow front panels right sides together, matching the raw edges all around.
- Using a ½" seam allowance, stitch around all four sides of the pillow, making sure to pivot at the corners.
- Clip all four corners of the pillow at a diagonal, but be sure not to clip into your seam.
- Using the envelope opening on the back, turn the pillow covering right side out. Gently push out the corners from the inside to make nice, square corners on the outside. A long, blunt-end tool works well for this, like a large knitting needle, chopstick or point turner.
- Insert the pillow form through the envelope opening and fluff out the corners of the pillow cover evenly.
Project Design, Sample Creation, and Instructional Outline: Alicia Thommas